posted on Mon 5 Sep 2016 6:04 PM
Dispatches from the Field: Meetings in Addis Ababa with the Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the AU Peace and Security Council

Early this morning (5 September), Council members flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they concluded their visiting mission to Africa with meetings with Hailemariam Desalegn, chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and with the AU Peace and Security Council, focusing on the crisis in South Sudan.

Meeting with Desalegn at the office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Fodé Seck of Senegal, co-lead of the visiting mission with Ambassador Samantha Power of the US, shared the elements of the joint communiqué that had been agreed yesterday between Council members in Juba on behalf of the Council and the government of South Sudan. According to the communiqué, South Sudan agreed to accept the Regional Protection Force mandated in resolution 2304. The government also agreed to permit freedom of movement of UNMISS personnel in keeping with the mission’s mandate, and to improve humanitarian access by removing illegal checkpoints and working with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to streamline bureaucratic impediments. It further signaled its readiness to work with the AU in establishing the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, called for in the August 2015 peace agreement.

The discussion of the Regional Protection Force was a key aspect of the meeting. Contributors to the Force have yet to be identified with certainty although some African member states have expressed a willingness to participate. Desalegn apparently said that stopping the violence in South Sudan was paramount, regardless of whether the troops were from IGAD member states or from other African countries. Desalegn expressed concern that the situation in South Sudan could destabilise the region. He said that his government wanted to play a constructive role in addressing the crisis in South Sudan which respected the sovereignty of the country, whether or not Ethiopia participated in the force.

The visiting mission concluded at the AU Headquarters with an informal meeting between Council members and members of the AU Peace and Security Council. In addition to interventions by several members of the two Councils, speakers included Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security; Haile Menkerios, UN Special Representative to the AU; and Nicholas Haysom, UN Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Among the key points discussed by the two Councils were the importance of implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan, the need to work out the modalities of the Regional Protection Force (this initially will include the composition of the force and the timeline for deployment), and the critical need for accountability in South Sudan to stop the cycle of impunity for acts of violence, including through the establishment of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. It seems that members felt that there had been a productive exchange of ideas at the meeting. A key point made at the meeting was the need for the AU Peace and Security Council, IGAD and the UN Security Council to coordinate their efforts as effectively as possible to help to resolve the crisis in South Sudan.

Reflecting on the visit, several Council members were encouraged by what they felt they achieved during the mission. In particular, they view the joint communiqué agreed with the government as a success, given that South Sudan agreed to the Regional Protection Force, to permit freedom of movement of UNMISS, and to improve humanitarian access, among other things. A number of members have said that Council members spoke with one voice in their meetings with government ministers and President Kiir, making it clear that resolution 2304, which authorised the Protection Force, must be implemented. They maintain that this was a factor in convincing the government to make the commitments outlined in the joint communiqué. At the same time, members underscored that the communiqué is only a document, and that the true measure of its success will be whether the government makes good on its commitments and turns words into deeds.